Provincial Court during COVID-19

Provincial Court
COVID-19 Provincial court

As of July 18, 2022, the BC Provincial Court has made some changes to its operations and how people attend court appearances. The court now deals with family matters under the Provincial Court (Family) Rules in three ways: in person, virtual (remote), or hybrid proceedings.

At an in-person proceeding, everyone is present in the courtroom. At a virtual proceeding, everyone participates remotely either by MS Teams (audio or videoconference) or telephone. And at a hybrid proceeding, some people participate remotely by telephone or MS Teams while others attend in person without having to make a court application or give advance notice.

If you want to attend court in a different way from which you're directed, you have to make an application to a judge using an Application for Case Management Order Without Notice or Attendance (Form 11) or by Application for Case Management Order (Form 10) under the Family Law Act.

Protection order hearings will be set by the court registry in consultation with a Judicial Case Manager.

See the following information from the court for more details:

Attending family court proceedings under the Provincial Court Family Rules

In-person appearances

The following Family Law Act court appearances will be in person, unless a judge orders otherwise:

  • trials and trial continuations
  • applications for an order about a priority parenting matter
  • applications for an order prohibiting the relocation of a child
  • applications about enforcement
  • applications for a case management order (where notice is required)

If you have a Family Maintenance Enforcement Act (FMEA) or Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act (ISO) matter, the following court appearance will also be in person, unless a judge orders otherwise:

  • trials and trial continuations
  • appearances where notice is required to be given to another party and where evidence will be given in person

Your proceeding will be on the trial list on the date scheduled. Go to court in person (with your lawyer, if you have one) on the date scheduled at 9 am to tell the court if you’re ready to go ahead that day. The court will decide which trials will proceed. Witnesses and anyone who has a lawyer must be prepared to go to court in person.

If you or the other party/parties want to remotely attend a trial or trial continuation that was scheduled to be heard in person, you can make an application in the applicable court registry to do so (using an Application for Case Management Order [Form 10, PFA 717] under the Family Law Act or an Application to Change Method of Attendance [Form PFA 771] under the Child, Family and Community Service Act). But first, you or your lawyer must:
  • contact Court Services Branch and ask if there are enough resources at the your court location for a virtual hearing, and
  • make sure that all parties have the technology needed to appear remotely.

Even if the appropriate technology is in place, the judge can refuse an application for remote attendance at trial. See the court notice Court Operations During Communicable Disease Phase of COVID-19 for more information.

Remote appearances

Attendance at Family Management Conferences and Family Settlement Conferences under the Family Law Act will continue to be held remotely by audio (telephone or Microsoft Teams) or video (Microsoft Teams), unless a judge orders otherwise. If you have a lawyer, they must attend by videoconference unless they make an application and the court allows them to attend by audioconference.

Attending remotely means you'll "attend" court by receiving a telephone call from the court, or by joining a conference call through Telus, or an audioconference or videoconference through Microsoft Teams. See the Guide for Appearing in the Provincial Court Using Microsoft Teams for more information. See also Provincial Court remote proceedings for tips on how to prepare for a remote court appearance.

Hybrid appearances

The following Family Law Act court appearances are hybrid, unless a judge orders otherwise:

  • trial preparation conferences
  • pre-trial conferences
  • confirm trial date
  • calling of the family assize list

Attending child protection (CFCSA) proceedings

The following court appearances under the Provincial Court (CFCSA) Rules will be in person:

  • Aboriginal Family Healing Court Conferences
  • trials and trial continuations
  • appearances where notice of the application is required to be given to another party and where oral evidence will be presented

Family case conferences will be held remotely by audioconference or videoconference. Any other CFCSA court appearances are hybrid. See Default Method of Attendance for CFCSA Proceedings (FAM 12) for more information.

COVID-19 public health guidelines

At this time, wearing face masks in Provincial Court buildings is a personal choice. However, a judge, judicial justice, or justice of the peace may require masks to be worn in their courtroom.

There are no requirements for health screening, physical distancing, or capacity limits at courthouses at this time.

Filing documents

You can file court documents in Provincial Court registries in person or by using remote filing methods (email, mail, or fax or by using Court Services Online, where available).

To file family law forms online or by email, you can use an electronic signature — except for affidavits and financial statements, which must be signed by hand (see the next section). An electronic signature can be a scan of a handwritten signature or a signature drawn with a stylus, trackpad, etc. It doesn't include a typewritten name or signature using a digital ID.

During COVID-19, all deadlines for filing court documents were temporarily suspended but began running again on March 25, 2021. If you’re unsure of any time periods related to your family law matter, get legal advice. It's important to file documents on time and to appear in court when required.

Affidavits and financial statement

Under the Provincial Court (Family) Rules, you can file the following signed documents without first swearing or affirming them if it's medically unsafe or not possible to meet with a commissioner of oaths:

  • Affidavit — General (Form 45)
  • Financial Statement (Form 4)
  • Guardianship Affidavit (Form 5)
  • Application About a Protection Order (Form 12) that attaches Schedule 1 (Affidavit for Protection Order)

When you go to court, the judge will likely ask you to swear that the contents of your documents are true.

If you want to swear or affirm your affidavit(s) before filing but can't meet with a commissioner of oaths in person, you may be able to use video technology (see Provincial Court NP 20 — Affidavits for Use in Court Proceedings for more details).

To file sworn or unsworn affidavits and financial statements online or by email, sign the document by hand (electronic signatures aren't acceptable). Then scan the document — most smartphones have an app to do this. Fill out and attach an Electronic Filing Statement (Form 51). Keep the original document in case a judge orders you to file later on.

Courts serving remote locations (Circuit courts)

Provincial Court judges, court staff, and lawyers travel regularly to hold court in remote communities around the province. All circuit court matters are proceeding as scheduled.

Page last updated: Monday, July 18, 2022

Videos

This 7-minute video is for people wondering if they should go to Provincial Court during COVID-19. This video was made in May 2020, and the advice is still current. You may be required to wear a mask in some courtrooms.
Get more help

For more information about Provincial Court during COVID-19, see the COVID-19 page on the court website.